Every Generation Has Its Cringe

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S1: Let’s see, Dr. Cornbread says I’m 77 on Twitter often and can’t imagine getting worked up over this. Thank you, Dr. Conrad.

S2: Hi, I’m Madison Malone Kaczor,

S3: and I’m Rachel Hampton. You’re listening to I said, why am

S2: I in case you missed it, Slate’s

S3: podcast about Internet culture. We’re mostly here to break your brains as we have broken ours, most recently by a tick tock that has taught me that vegetables don’t it don’t exist.

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S2: Yeah, I know we have like a whole entire actual episode planned out for today, but the only thing I want to talk about is this tick tock. Who’s going to tell the details that their main character is a fruit?

S4: I hate to break this to you, but nothing to vegetable vegetables just term. That means you can eat it in Bodney. Nothing’s a vegetable.

S2: It’s this woman saying who’s going to tell vegetables that their lead character is a fruit? And then another woman comes in. That’s the second voice you hear and says, hold up, vegetables aren’t real. And here is why.

S3: Tuber and also on the screen is this man who is laughing at the original TIKAI,

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S4: a cucumber, some melon Melander fruit.

S3: You so often hear these like Twitter means where it’s like you’re making the tomatoes in your salad. And like you, you intuitively know that carrots and potatoes are like root vegetables.

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S2: Sorry, I walk into to Bath and Body Works as a teenager in my hometown mall and a cucumber salad, body spray, melon, melon, body spray.

S3: Better than honestly, the sweet pea, which kind of gives me more flashbacks.

S2: Those like the hot vanilla sugar one. Oh yeah.

S3: Just smells like, like I just don’t see it. That smell like teenage sweat now.

S2: Like yeah. Or like what. I thought sex. You know, I shouldn’t finish this. That is enough about vegetables today. We’ve actually got to tell you that if you’re still using reaction gifs, you may or may not be revealing how old you are.

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S3: Yeah, the latest battle in a long running war between generations has claimed a new victim, friend of the pod, Jenny Zhang, who writes for Eater and last week tweeted that she can always tell that someone’s over the age of 33 if they consistently use reply gifts, which I laughed at.

S2: I saw this tweet. I thought, hmm, that’s pretty accurate. And then I moved along. But Twitter Twitter did not move along.

S3: Twitter never knows how to move along. They could take a note from the all-American Rejects song Move Along. But unfortunately, they have all latched on to this idea that the girls are fighting the girls being the generations, specifically GenZE and millennials. But it’s mostly just millennials realizing that they’re aging.

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S2: Yeah, I the Mirror is revealing it to me. Every day later in the show, we’re actually going to hear from Jenny about how this innocuous tweet took an ugly turn, blew up her feed. But first, Rachel and I are going to take you back and we’re going to trace the history of this generational war, which isn’t really much of a war at all. How how would you describe it, Rachel?

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S3: Kind of a one sided battle, perhaps. You know, someone just punching themselves repeatedly in the face as someone else watches prove me wrong. But I don’t think that there’s a

S2: single person

S3: who looks better with a side part than they do a middle part.

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S2: This war has been brewing since June twenty twenty, give or take, when a seemingly innocent challenge started circulating on Tic-Tac, insisting that every single person on earth would look better if they partied their hair down the middle millions of tick. Four years later, we thought we me, I thought this might be over and we’d only be left with the haunting memories of this Lizzo parody, which was, Oh, I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry.

S4: I’m black, skinny jeans and my Sipah. I use this emoji and I like the heart. So you think we’re old? Well, I have a map. We give you Wi-Fi and we could take it back. Remember last year you bought mom jeans and then you’re out here making side part Meems. Oh, that’s cute. We may not be teens, but just remember, we’re the old queens.

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S2: So we have this video. There was a hashtag like hashtag bully millennials.

S3: Yeah. This is all happening around June twenty twenty when Gen Z has apparently latched onto the fact that millennials were supposed to save the world. And instead all we gave the world was like crap breweries and an obsession with like Hogwarts. All these videos started emerging, including this one, you know,

S5: millennials have some goddamn nerve logging on to this app, talking shit about GenZE, this fucking app that we allow them to be on when we’re doing the work they were supposed to be doing, baby. Y’all were supposed to save the climate starting revolutions and shit. What did you contribute? Mumford and Sons, a craft brewery on every corner, a fucking goddamn reboot of every movie in the nineties because you wouldn’t shut the fuck up about missing it so much when they were even good in the first place. You just peaked when you were eight years old. It’s nine PM. Go tuck your fucking kids in, OK?

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S2: It’s nine pm. I want to be tucked in like that. That is an excellent bedtime and I will not be shamed for it.

S3: So you have these videos and then in other videos you have comment sections that kind of just take up this like clarion call of. What the fuck are millennials doing, dragging them for everything from knowing what their Hogwarts houses to buying shirts from Forever 21 that said rosé all day and or Friday?

S2: OK, but like I’m a slither and moon and a raven cloud rising.

S3: So simultaneously, as the first flares of this generation of war are going up, this show me your hair with the middle part. Video arrives again. This video does not come for anybody of any generational persuasion.

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S2: No generational names are uttered.

S3: They are. It turns into this challenge called, I believe, the middle part challenge. Right.

S2: And that that could have been the end of it. But a year later and in February, the world declared that the crying that the world Gen Z declared that the cry laughing emoji was both cancelled and a hallmark of being a millennial, that only millennials use the cry. Laughing You know, the emoji that is like laughing so hard it has little tiny tears coming out its eyes, which honestly is that in my top five most used emoji. Absolutely.

S3: So the crying, laughing emoji gets absolutely cancelled. Skinny jeans also get canceled and the millennials fight back with these absolutely terrible districts, one of which has been stuck in my head for quite literally two months.

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S4: The GenZE, you can suck it can’t tell me what to wear. Because I’ve been rocking this sad since you had Kermit on your underwear, so cute and you can try these skinny jeans from my cold dead

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S6: ass, you hear so GenZE, you can suck it. You can’t tell me what to wear.

S4: Oh, you guys look grumpy.

S6: You should take a nap.

S2: Frankly, to call that a distraction is an insult to actual distracts,

S3: what kind of brings all of these things together besides the fact that they’re all kind of dumb is that it’s really petty and very cranky, but it’s ultimately not that deep. And in a way, it’s karma for all the boomer beloved industries that millennials killed, which includes everything from napkins to top sheets.

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S2: Don’t forget about voicemail’s and golf killed all them,

S3: every single one of them. And the cycle continues. It’s a circle of life.

S2: It is our turn.

S3: It is your turn for your darlings to be murdered by a generation younger and cooler than you. And so in the don’t like where this is going in that spirit, because Madison is all of four years older than me and firmly within the young millennial category, whereas I refer to myself as a GenZE millennial cusp because I was born in the last year that qualifies as Gen Z. I’m just going to drag Madison for the next few minutes.

S2: And that’s different from the rest of the minutes of this show. How exactly unclear. But as you were,

S3: so here is a non exhaustive list in really no particular order of things that millennials really do need to get over. Madison, are you ready? Are your loins girded?

S2: I’m not answering that. Here we go.

S3: That one specific color pink thing. So I did a thing. Oh, no. Hashtag girl bus fare. BuzzFeed quizzes that really specific overexposed kind of orangy Instagram filter. Kelvyn saying, why do you know the name of that? Saying, I’m a millennial taco Tuesday and why on Wednesday saying Rosie all day, Hillary Clinton? No, just standing politicians in general making Disney your personality mustache, finger tattoos, paying extra for glogg, really just anything with an avocado watching tick tock on other apps that are not to talk because you think downloading tick tock makes you, I don’t know, uncool. And finally, and perhaps the most important thing, making things that you can buy your personality.

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S2: OK, but as I have told you, black turtlenecks are my entire personality.

S3: No more of this after the break, we’re going to be hearing from Jenny Zhang about her time on the front lines of the generational war.

S2: Spoiler alert, it was not great. And we’re back with Jenny Zhang, who is a writer at Etre and the co-host of the podcast Criticism Is Dead. Jenny had a tweet blow up on Twitter this week and she is here to tell us all about it.

S3: Jenny, I am so glad that you’re here. Could you please read the controversial tweet in question?

S1: Yeah, of course. So the tweet is as follows. Any time I see someone use a reaction gif, I immediately know they’re above the age of thirty three.

S2: It’s just so specific. Like the thirty three was what really like made me laugh the hardest as somebody who is twenty nine and therefore like an older millennial. Jenny, what, what generation group are you part of.

S1: So I’m twenty eight. So also like millennial but just a few years removed from the millennial that

S3: Gen C Millennial cusp. Yeah. Yeah.

S1: Because so I. Like, spiritually, I guess I identify like humor wise or whatever, or posting wise a little bit more with the younger brethren, but I also very much understand how, you know, millennials and older millennials tweet and post and behave.

S2: I’m curious what in I mean, other than it just being like a good, timely joke engineered to make Twitter react. Was there something you saw that inspired this tweet? Was there a gif reaction that brought you to tweeting?

S1: I think I’ve had like some version of this thought or observation, like since people started making a big deal about like the generational, I don’t know, gaps and like wars and stuff. But I think I did see some reaction GIFs maybe to some some people I follow or something who are definitely like kind of in the older millennial realm, I would say. But it wasn’t even like a specific incident that set me off so much. I was like, oh, yeah, that’s that’s still going on. So time to kind of put this on the world and see what happens.

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S3: And boy, did a lot happen. Did you expect the reaction you got, which we should probably describe the reaction that.

S2: Yeah, we should quantify the reaction. Jenny, we were going to ask, how many impressions has this tweet gotten?

S1: Nine point one million.

S3: Jesus Christ. So were you aiming for this when you tweeted this out? Did you expect this to happen?

S1: I mean, I don’t think anyone really expects or knows or can predict unless they had, like, a huge following themselves and are used to this, but if you’re like just a regular Anami account like mine, you never really know what’s going to happen once you throw this garbage out into the world. And this time the world received it with open arms and also like with some pitchforks.

S2: Jenny, are you willing to wade into the replies? No. Yeah. Let me,

S1: um. Let’s see. Dr. Cornbread says I’m seventy seven on Twitter often and can’t imagine getting worked up over this. I don’t know if that’s like. Dr. Coimbra, coming for me or coming from applies unclear, but thank you, Dr. Conrad Schissel. Unlike you and me, those old dinosaurs are whack. Let’s see, after seeing three successive youngin age groups, Tosa, smug comments like this over the years, only to quickly find themselves labeled old by the next bunch, I’m feeling pretty Zen about being almost double thirty three sixty six using Twitter. That’s that’s great.

S2: God, I don’t want to be on Twitter at 66. I want to be gone from this place by 66.

S3: When you say this place you mean Twitter like the planet.

S2: Well the planet will probably be gone, but I definitely want to be on Twitter if the planet is around by some miracle.

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S3: I guess I’m curious as to whether you were kind of aware of the generational wars before you decided to just throw this grenade.

S1: Yeah, I mean, I guess so. Like, as much as anyone on the Internet is like of course, like there’s a big thing about, like middle parts, like your hair and then like what kind of jeans and pants you like to wear. And it is really good engagement fodder, honestly, because people are so touchy about this clearly.

S3: Yeah.

S1: I really feel like online at least it kind of blew up to a whole nother level with the OC boomer stuff, which of course like there’s like I saw their take dogs. They’re like means there is like a at the time style section article about it.

S2: I did, I did give my dad an OK boomer hat for Christmas one year. OK, Boomer is written in the supreme font.

S1: Oh. Did he love it.

S2: Yeah. He laughed. He laughed in the way that like only an aging boomer dad who’s like semi online can.

S1: Oh I’m glad he, he got it. So yeah. That like brought out a whole level of like generational fighting and aggression towards each other, especially since like boomers sort of got the sort of political views sort of transplanted onto it. People are seeing some kind of like moral values or like virtue attached to these things in ways that it was easier to kind of ignore back when people weren’t is online. Now, it’s like part of your online persona and like how you use social media as well.

S3: That was kind of one of the things that bothered me most about the OK boomer meme, which is very funny, but also this discussion of like boomers as people who like, universally benefited from an amazing economy, like so much of the kind of generational divide seems to just forget that like non-white people exist because like black boomers or not, anybody is thinking of when you’re thinking about, OK, Boomer.

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S1: Yeah. And what do you think of like millennials do what people think of when they mock, you know, millennial hipster culture, whatever. They’re also pretty much thinking of like whites, often urban dwelling, you know, middle class, you know, millennials. And same with, I think, what people are thinking of now with like GenZE. There are very certain very like what was that? The disco girls. Disco girls. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Those are also very like particular images, I think float to the top of people’s minds and are again usually white, usually a particular demographic.

S2: Those water bottles are expensive. What are the the ones that the disco girls carry the. Oh yeah. Yeah.

S1: Joe Flies kind of love hydrograph.

S2: Yeah. I’m like Nalgene. I’m showing my age here.

S3: I also thought Nalgene.

S2: See, let me do your club.

S3: And I feel like that is kind of the when I think of the club of like nineteen ninety three to two thousand, I feel like I am often just thinking like the people of color that I associate with which like they’re obviously in every generation. But when I’m thinking about microgeneration for some reason I’m like this gets better at the idea of the fact that they are non-white people when we should really just throw the whole frame away.

S1: Yeah, maybe. Yeah, probably. I guess it helps marketers and researchers. I don’t really know who else.

S3: We have talked a lot about how it feels.

S2: So much of this is an experiment in branding and it feels like a bunch of advertising execs sat in a room and were like, how do we get people to buy a different kind of pants? Here is how we make certain people feel old and lame if they’re not wearing these pants.

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S1: Yeah, I mean, and I want to point out, like I didn’t even say people should I use, like, Rakhshan gifts anymore. I’m just like it’s purely an observation. Like there’s no value judgment here. Anyone can use whatever they want to express their feelings online as long as it’s ideally in a healthy manner. Just do it with the knowledge that, you know, some younger people may or may not think that you’re above the age of thirty three.

S3: I mean, there’s this way in which these aesthetics and objects as masses are becoming like a personality now, which does feel like it was just cooked up in a lab somewhere to give like more engagement to like. Whoever is the most used reaction gif in the world, like I feel like people’s entire careers have been made off of just purely being a reaction, giving him that kind of notoriety. And this has nothing to do with who you are as a person or like what your political or moral values are. And yet people are in your mentions still like a week later being like, if you don’t Emmies reaction gif, I will personally die. Like you have personally killed me with this tweet.

S2: I also no longer use gif reactions. I think I made it a little longer than you did. It definitely was like the first job I got where we had slack as a messaging system, the like Jiffy feature, where you could type in a random word and it would generate a gif was definitely a big form of communication at this job that was like maybe five, six years ago. Now I’m wondering, are there things we have used as a substitute like do you guys have reaction emoji, bit emoji emoji, just like a camera roll of Meems on your phone?

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S3: Oh, I love the emoji reactions and slack. I also there was a time period where everybody was like, oh, I hate I message reactions. And I was like, I love those shirts. They’re amazing. Yeah.

S1: I cannot live without reactions, which is. Yeah. Maybe like an indictment of my own communication skills or I’d rather just be like thumbs up instead of typing anything else.

S3: I have no thoughts in my head. Just vibes.

S1: Yeah. So definitely like that might be a bit of a replacement or there are just a lot more like fan cams are like those like short form videos that are like really dominating replies.

S2: Rachel has a phantom. She will not stop talking about what it will be that this is the link to Jenny.

S3: This morning I saw fan a Malcolm X fan cam. No, literally been laughing about this for like at least four hours now. I’m going to send it to you like it is simply incredible because like on one very deep level, I’m like, I get it. Malcolm X was really good. He was like an excellent fathom. Why? It’s an excellent fan cam. Peter. Oh, my God, this music, it’s this song sells it like the song fully makes it look like a fan. Campfield So we’re like there’s always this little bit of sparkles involved, which, like it again makes us even funnier because you just think Malcolm X would like sparkles on the corner of his glasses. No.11. How do you feel about all the millennials now, are you just going to, like, turn cool and be like a millennial cusp? Like what’s the vibe? What’s the movement here after this moment? Well, I

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S1: think there is like as much as I would like to be able to claim a little bit more of, like, just happiness. I also think there’s something a little bit pathetic about like clinging too much to that.

S2: Yeah, Rachel,

S3: I am on the cusp there and I know. Claim me.

S1: Yeah. I think it’s just like, again, its idea, like, you know, every generation has its cringe is really the little

S3: like that summary of it. The title of the show

S2: and it’s the title of this show.

S1: So yeah, like it’s fine to be whatever generation you are, there is going to be some cringe associated with it is going to be some good stuff associated with it. And why bother trying to pretend otherwise.

S2: I keep trying to make like you kids get off my lawn joke. But generationally I’m not going to ever have a lawn to like yell at the kids to get off. Yeah. But spiritually that’s that’s what we’re talking about.

S3: I actually think the wrap up message is that we should all just live laugh in love.

S1: I think so, yeah.

S3: Let’s put it in some fancy script and stick it on our walls

S2: with laugh, love and never tweet. Yes. Jenny, thank you so much for talking with us today.

S1: Of course, I had so much fun. Thanks for having me on.

S2: Jenny Zhang is a staff writer at Vox Media’s ITR and also host of the podcast Criticism Is Dead.

S3: All right, that’s the show we were back on your feet on Saturday, so definitely subscribe. It’s the best way to never miss an episode. And please leave a reading interview on Apple podcast and tell a friend. But in the meantime, if you’ve got a rabbit hole, you want us to go down

S2: a tick tock challenge that makes no sense.

S3: Or you just want to know why everyone only Rachel is talking about this Malcolm X fan can drop us a note. I see why my slate dotcom or find us on Twitter at the hashtag. I see why my iPod.

S2: I see Why Am I is produced by Daniel Shrader. Our supervising producer is Derek John Forrest. Wickman is Slate’s culture editor, and Gabe Roth is editorial director of Audio Seiyu Online or not.